Okay so it’s not a cauldron, it’s the airlock on my demijohns, but there is definitely bubbling going on. I’m finding I really like this brewing business, though I’ve already messed up a whole batch of elderberry wine. First up was a blackcurrant wine. Viscountess Susannah kindly invited people to her home to pick soft fruits over the summer, so Gytha, the kids and I landed over at her house one beautiful evening in late July to gather blackcurrants. It was a lovely evening, all easygoing fat bumblebees bumbling about while the kids flitted about Pepper Pots and Gytha and I gleaned the bushes of some of the fattest blackcurrants I have ever seen. I had originally thought of making jam, but having gathered so many and remembering how much I loved mucking about with elderberry dye last year I reckoned some berry alchemy was in order. I had an exciting afternoon in a homebrew shop buying yeasts, airlocks, demijohns and of course the all important steriliser.
Since it was my first attempt at wine I didn’t choose a medieval source, I went with this one instead: http://bensadventuresinwinemaking.blogspot.ie/2012/07/blackcurrant-wine-making-of.html
This one smelled divine as I was working on it, those currants were enormous, the colour was glorious – the photos don’t do it justice.
It bubbled away joyfully for ages and I’m hoping to bottle it this week now the fermentation has stopped, I just need to go back over the bottling instructions.
An Elderberry wine followed as I’ve been threatening to make elderberry wine for years, I adore the stuff. While the simmering elderberry must wasn’t as fabulous on the nose as the blackcurrant (by quite some distance), the colours seething about more than made up for it. I’m afraid it met a terrible end; I had to dump it when I accidentally broke the neck of the demijohn, I don’t think anyone wants to drink fragments of broken glass.
My latest project is a metheglin (spiced mead) taken from The Closet of sir Kenelme Digby, Knight, Opened. A Receipt to Make Metheglin As It ls Made At Liege as Communicated By Mr. Masillon
Take one Measure of Honey, and three Measures of Water, and let it boil till one measure be boiled away, so that there be left three measures in all; as for Example, take to one Pot of Honey, three Pots of Water, and let it boil so long, till it come to three Pots. During which time you must Skim it very well as soon as any scum riseth; which you are to continue till there rise no scum more. You may, if you please, put to it some spice, to wit, Cloves and Ginger; the quantity of which is to be proportioned according as you will have your Meath, strong or weak. But this you do befor it begin to boil.
It goes on to talk about using hops as a preservative and discussing bread yeast as an option, not a requirement. I like this one because I think it might be a simple, not overly complex spice mix for a beginner’s attempt. I really want to try some melomels, but I think the fruit enzymes can be a little funny, so I thought this one might be the better option. My ambition is to eventually make a raspberry mead even 1/4 as nice as one I was given to taste at Raglan (made by Lord Guy De Dinan). But back to this one.
As I understand it the my modern shop bought honey doesn’t require the boiling or much skimming, in fact modern recipes seem to advise a simmer, not a boil. I’ve gone for the one honey to three water proportion and added a couple of slices of fresh ginger and 10 whole cloves. I brought it to a simmer, made sure it smelt nice, skimmed a little bit then allowed to cool. Taking a general idea I’ve seen on several sites about mead I took a small amount of the must mixture, now cool to one side and Poured the rest of the mixture into my sterilized demijohn. Then I added the yeast to the smaller, set aside portion, stirred it gently but thoroughly before adding it to the bulk of the must. Airlock, wrapped in a cloth to keep it dark, put into a spot where it (hopefully) will stay undisturbed for about six weeks/ the bubbling in the airlock stops – jobs a good one. Well I hope it is.